Nicki Minaj May Testify in Brother's Child Sex Assault Trial as Defense Argues Accusations Were an Extortion Attempt

A lawyer for Jelani Maraj claims the accuser's family tried to extort $25 million from Nicki Minaj

EXCLUSIVE: Nicki Minaj's brother arrives for the start of his child sex trial
Photo: SplashNews

A lawyer for Nicki Minaj‘s older brother claims the family of the accuser in his child sex assault case attempted to extort millions from the rap star, PEOPLE confirms.

But prosecutors reportedly maintain that their evidence proves Jelani Maraj, 38, preyed on a pre-teen girl for months.

Maraj’s trial began on Thursday with his attorney, David Schwartz, telling jurors that the charges were part of a scheme to get money from Maraj’s superstar sister, according to Newsday and the New York Daily News.

Maraj was arrested in 2015 and, according to court records, is charged with predatory sex assault against a child, course of sexual conduct against a child in the first and second degrees and endangering the welfare of a child. He has pleaded not guilty.

He is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl, who was then a sixth-grader, for eight months — allegedly making her his “indentured sex object,” prosecutors said in court on Thursday, Newsday reports.

The girl, now 14, and her younger brother revealed the alleged abuse and prosecutors said DNA and forensic evidence corroborated the children’s claims, according to the paper.

But Schwartz says it’s all lies.

“The victim’s family tried to shake her [Minaj] down for $25 million,” he alleges to PEOPLE. “It was all part of a plot. They made up these lies. They wanted to make [the charges] go away for $25 million.”

Schwartz tells PEOPLE that Minaj is on his witness list and may testify at the trial.

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Schwartz said in court that the girl was allegedly being abused by her mother and was coerced into going along with the “made-up tale” of abuse, Newsday reports.

He described Maraj’s accuser as “devious” and said, “There are 25 million reasons why this child was brainwashed to lie and make up these charges.”

Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. However, during her opening remarks, Nassau County, New York, Assistant District Attorney Emma Slane argued that both the forensic evidence and witness testimony, including from the girl and her brother, implicated Maraj.

“He used her and abused her to satisfy his sick sexual desires,” Slane said.

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She said his semen was allegedly recovered from the victim’s pajama pants, Newsday reports — which Schwartz claimed could have been the result of contamination or fabrication by the girl’s mother.

The singer has not commented publicly on the case and her representatives have not responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

Schwartz previously said Minaj supports Maraj “100 percent,” and she reportedly helped bail him out of jail following his arrest.

If convicted of the most serious count, Maraj could be sentenced to life behind bars.

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